My Life: Hannah Waterman

Hannah Waterman as Beverly in Abigail's Party
Hannah Waterman as Beverly in Abigail's Party
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Hannah Waterman is the picture of health and is ready to party.

But it is less than two years since the former EastEnders actress’s weight plummeted dangerously low.

It happened just over a year after she had brought out a DVD showing how she had lost three stone, leaving many speculating that she was exercising too much. But it turned out that she was in fact suffering from type one diabetes.

“I was 24 weeks pregnant yet I was losing weight no matter what I did,” says the 37-year-old daughter of Minder actor Dennis Waterman.

“I was on holiday in Australia at the time and the doctors were prescribing me food supplements for malnutrition. But I just had this incredible thirst all the time and felt exhausted.”

But when they did a blood test they realised that Hannah was suffering type 1 diabetes. She may have been unknowingly suffering from the incurable auto-immune disease for months, or even years. Her pancreas was failing and she was in serious danger of falling into a coma and dying.

“I had no idea how high risk I was. It is very rare to develop type 1 in pregnancy. One of the doctors told me later that she hadn’t seen a positive outcome before,” says Hannah.

If treated properly, diabetes is no obstacle to healthy pregnancy, but diabetic mothers who have poor control of their condition are at greater risk of high blood pressure, premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth

Hannah was rushed into intensive care and given insulin which she now has to inject regularly to keep the condition under control.

Luckily Jack was born fit and healthy and, now 18 months-old, is giving Hannah and her partner, 
ex-The Bill star Huw Higginson, the run-around.

“It’s a totally manageable illness,” says Hannah. “It can be difficult at time to stay positive if you get bad blood results, but if you stay fit and healthy it really helps.”

Hannah has to be particularly careful at the moment as she is starring as Beverley in the 1970s classic Abigail’s Party, her first major stage role since having Jack.

“It is trickier when you are working. The other day I felt my blood sugar dropping while on stage and so substituted Beverly’s ‘gin and tonic’ for a ‘Bacardi and coke’ no one noticed – not even my fellow actors.”

Hannah is loving being back on stage, particularly starring in the Mike Leigh classic currently at the Alhambra, Bradford.

“It’s great fun. It’s exhausting but the reaction we have had is amazing.”

It’s 20 years since Hannah saw the original while at school and she is trying to distance herself intentionally from that iconic production.

“I can’t wait to see it again, but it will not be until we have finished. It is such a great play. People forget how dark it is.”

Abigail’s Party tours for six months, which has been tough on Hannah being away from Jack and Huw for so long.

“There have only been 
two weeks when I haven’t been able to see Jack, the 
rest of the time I go home every Saturday or even commute from home depending on where we are playing.”

At the moment Jack and Huw are staying Yorkshire while Hannah is in Bradford.

“We are lucky that we are both actors as we can juggle our jobs around each other and Jack.

“I am loving it though. I feel really lucky to have got the part having been away from the theatre for so long.”

An observational classic

Following a West End season Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party, one of the most popular plays ever, is at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford until Saturday.

This ruthlessly accurate and painfully funny observation of the pretensions of suburbia became an instant classic when it first appeared as a BBC Play For Today in 1977 starring Alison Steadman and immortalising Demis Roussos.

For tickets call the Box Office on 01274 432000 or visit bradford-theatres.co.uk